SoHo | L’ecole (French)

2013 New York City Summer Restaurant Week

L’ecole, The Restaurant of The International Culinary Center

Macorons, compliments of L'ecole...A perfect end to tasty meal.

Macarons, compliments of L’ecole…A perfect end to a tasty meal.

Forget about the chaos of Canal Street and Broadway.  Once you step into L’ecole, those feelings of pedestrian and subway chaos and stress vanish. Trust me, simply climb the stairs from the street and open the door into the small entry way and you’re greeted by civility and tranquility — and the nice young lady at the front desk.

One of my dear friends, D, decided to join me for a special treat (don’t you just love when you have friends who eat?) and we were not disappointed.

Let’s start from the beginning…(Note: I’ll have to insert a photo of the place at a later date. I was running a little behind schedule, so there was no time to fire up the camera before going in.)

The Space and Service:
The restaurant is simply decorated, and quite intimate (translation: small).  The service was attentive.  Our waiter, and who I assume was his assistant, were both pleasant.  The waiter’s suggestion of a wine to go with our meal was perfect.  So far, so good.

D and I plunged into conversation immediately. I mean, we hadn’t seen each other in months, I think since last fall?  We needed to catch up on things like our job searches and all the sagas surrounding employers and employment.  We were getting so deep into our conversation within the first 10 minutes after ordering, we didn’t realize the assistant waiter had re-appeared with this…!  (well, that, below…)

An amuse-bouche served at L'ecole, The Restaurant of The International Culinary Center

Amuse-bouche served at L’ecole, The Restaurant of The International Culinary Center

What’s that you ask?

An amuse-bouche.  (Translation: Mouth Pleaser…read here about the amuse-bouche, according to Wikipedia.com)

My, my.  We didn’t expect this.  Wow.  The chef offered a masterpiece — in pint-sized containers.  (As a pint sizer, I can appreciate this.)  Presented to us was a cold, creamy, pea soup with a hint of mint.  It was simple but with incredible depth.  I wanted more of this.  I wanted a bowl.  I wanted to lick the container (so not classy), but my tongue could never reach to the bottom of white, ceramic containers. I wanted my friend’s portion. (But that would be greedy.)  O_o

We tried our best to act like ladies and sipped our wine (Note: D lost control after 20 minutes) until our appetizers arrived.

Presenting, the Appetizers:

Gnocchi Parisienne Peas, Grape Tomatoes, Chervil, Parmesan-Reggiano

Gnocchi Parisienne: Peas, Grape Tomatoes, Chervil and Parmesan-Reggiano

Oh, how soft and melt-in-your mouth was that Gnocchi Parisienne!  (P.S. It wasn’t my appetizer, but D’s.  I think friends should share their delicious meals with other friends.)  My appetizer was the Stuffed Calamari.  There was one problem: It had finely ground pork in the filling.

I don’t eat meat.

*blink*

Well, it was already ordered, and in truth, there was more rice than pork.

I ate it and emptied my wine glass.  Problem solved.  (I paid for it later.)

Sautéed Stuffed Calamari Pork and Rice Filling, Parsley Sauce, Radishes, Grape Tomatoes

Sautéed Stuffed Calamari Pork and Rice Filling, Parsley Sauce, Radishes and Grape Tomatoes

Let’s talk Entrées, shall we?

No.

Let’s not.

Let’s just look at the photographs.

Braised North Atlantic Cod Clams, Chorizo, Kale, Saffron Potatoes

Braised North Atlantic Cod Clams, Chorizo, Kale, Saffron Potatoes

Okay, that’s enough.

That’s Atlantic Cod (above).  Yet again, a minor glitch — but it was quickly remedied.  I removed all the chorizo.  What was left was a flaky, meaty and buttery gift from the sea.  And the clams were good too, but I wanted more.  Two clams were not enough, but I guess they were not to be star of the show.  I actually would have preferred just the clams, though.  I have a craving for clams.

And what’s that below?

That’s no ordinary lobster.  That’s Fourchu Lobster.  For who?  No. Fourchu.  From Canada.  Oh, how I love my Canadians!  It was sweet, sweet, sweet and oh, so meaty!  I’m serious when I say this:  It was the best tasting lobster I have ever had!  Oh. My. God!

Don’t believe the hype?  Read this little ditty from Gothamist.  And from NewYork.com.  There’s even a Facebook page for this crustacean.  And even going way back to 2009, Departures was singing its praises.  Two years later, so was Time magazine.

This piece of heaven was perfectly cooked, and the hot butter soaked it up.  As I placed it in my mouth, It. Just. Melted.  *sounds of a choir humming in the background*

1.5lb Whole Steamed Fourchu Lobster with Gem Lettuce Salad, French Fries, Drawn Butter, Lemon

1.5lb Whole Steamed Fourchu Lobster with Drawn Butter and Lemon

Oh, did I mention that the lobster was not mine?  No?  Well, it was D’s.  But again, there’s nothing like sharing a few bites from your friends.  Actually, I felt she was taunting me as she drooled with every bite until I couldn’t take it any more.  BTW, the lobster was accompanied by fries and a simple lettuce salad.

Gem Lettuce Salad and French Fries

Gem Lettuce Salad and French Fries

We were so full.  But obviously not full enough.  We both had dessert.  I had crème brûlée.  It was good.  Nothing much to report here.  In hindsight, I should have ordered something else.  Too often crème brûlée is my go-to dessert in French restaurants and I need to break that habit.  I must try other things.

I took a bite of D’s dessert. (What else would I do?)  Strawberry Lemongrass Shortcake with Strawberry Red Wine Sorbet.

Strawberry Lemongrass Shortcake with Strawberry Red Wine Sorbet, Crème Chantilly, Mint Gel

Strawberry Lemongrass Shortcake with Strawberry Red Wine Sorbet, Crème Chantilly, Mint Gel

So, what’s my assessment of L’ecole? 

L’ecole is a marvelous surprise steps away from the grit and grime of Canal Street.  It is simple French food.  I don’t know if it can be classified as “classic” French food, but I was more than quite pleased.  I would love to return.  Although not extremely expensive, it isn’t priced for most wallets.  Thankfully, Restaurant Week gave me the opportunity to experience it when I otherwise wouldn’t have on any normal day.

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